In an age where the balance leans disproportionately in the favour of batters, defending 15 runs off an over is not an easy task. And certainly not at Wankhede Stadium, a venue with true pace and short boundaries, where the team batting second hasn’t yet lost a game in IPL 2022. So the odds were stacked against Kuldeep Sen, when he was asked to deliver the final over against Lucknow Super Giants.
Moreover, he has just seen Prasidh Krishna, the senior pacer of the side, being clobbered all around the park by Marcus Stoinis, who, at this point, was batting like a man possessed by some ghoulish spirit.
Stoinis had already brought down the equation to 15 needed off an over. And now against an inexperienced and obscure pacer, whose name Stoinis might not have heard of before, the game looked almost set for Lucknow Super Giants.
But Rajasthan Royals Kuldeep had some other ideas. It was a simple plan, where he would keep the ball away from Stoinis’ arc — full and outside the off-stump. Stoinis missed three in a row after getting back on the strike, and soon he was on the bowler’s mercy to win this game. Kuldeep, however, held his composure and did just about enough by not giving any extras and ensuring a three-run win for his team.
‘He is a great guy, bowls with heart. He executed under pressure and will only grow from an experience like that,’ quipped Trent Boult about Kuldeep after the game.
A 26-year-old pacer from Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, Kuldeep Sen is third among five siblings. His father, Ram Pal Sen, who runs a salon in the town, was not very keen about his son pursuing cricket on a professional level. Kuldeep, however, was adamant about his dreams.
At the age of 16, he joined Vindhya Cricket Academy, where he honed his crafts under the tutelage of former India pacer Ishwar Pandey. When Kuldeep was unable to afford spikes for a club game, Ishwar provided him one. Once he became regular in age-group cricket, all such expenditures were taken care of by Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MCPA).
Impressed by his ability to bowl in-swingers, out-swingers, and cutters, then MP coach Devendra Bundela drafted him into the Ranji setup in 2018. In his debut season, Kuldeep Sen claimed 25 wickets, including a five-wicket haul against Punjab.
Other than being a skilled bowler, Kuldeep is also quite handy with the bat. His hitting prowess adds much-needed depth to the Rajasthan Royals batting unit. Needless to say, he has already sealed his spot ahead of Navdeep Saini in the star-studded pace attack, led by Trent Boult.